Working, eating, bonding
Written by Lisa Birkley
I am addicted to conferences. I love to attend the workshops and conventions, where I can learn about new ideas for yearbooks, software and writing. I always leave with something I can use in my classroom. However, when I get back into my routine of grading papers and preparing lessons, my new-found ideas get lost in the shuffle.
One idea that kept coming up over and over at the conferences was an after-school work night. Teachers from across the country would talk about the experience of gathering the students for a Work Late night and the benefits the staff received. They would have dinner together in the classroom, work on the yearbook and get a great deal of work completed.
Despite all the glowing reports, I was resistant to this idea. My thinking was that I already spend so much of my time on the yearbook and on my students, I really did not want to commit another block of my time.
This past March I could see that my staff was falling behind. We were missing deadlines on all our publications. I met with the editors and we decided to try “Work Late Wednesday.” We met in my classroom around 4:30 p.m. and worked until 6 p.m., then took a dinner break. After dinner and some very interesting conversations, we were back to work until around 8 p.m. The results were spectacular.
The expected result was meeting our deadlines, which was the initial motivating factor. However, some very unexpected things happened as well. The first Work Late night, I had my editors and just a few of the staff with me. By the fourth week I had more than 15 staffers working with us. The students came to look forward to each Wednesday. Our dinners got more extravagant with donations from the students. We truly became a tight group. I was able to give students more instructions in a relaxed atmosphere. We were more creative, bouncing ideas off of one another. I even brought my six-year-old daughter a few times and she got to know the staff better as well.
I am now a believer. Our Work Late Wednesday will be part of the yearbook program starting at the beginning of this school year. It did take a leap of faith on my part, but the extra time spent with the staff has been well worth the effort.